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Deal rationally with aggression on the road

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published June 6, 2016


Whether it’s a traffic jam, summer construction or mere happenstance, the driving experience offers numerous chances to encounter frustration. And according to experts, drivers need to take steps to prevent danger from happening to themselves or others. 

According to Sgt. Jill Bennett from the Michigan State Police, aggressive driving incidents and road rage sometimes occurs during rush hour on major metro Detroit expressways. But she said it is seen elsewhere, too.

“As the traffic gets very heavy and very congested, it can happen anytime,” she said. “The emotion is really a heavy part of it.” 

Bennett said four main types of dangerous drivers exist. One example is the egotist. Another is the overly emotional driver. The rationalizer always thinks it’s the other person’s fault, and lastly, there is the risk-taking show off, she said.

Bennett said Michigan doesn’t have a specific law that deals with road rage or aggressive driving. However, aggressive drivers may be cited for certain violations such as speeding or tailgating, she said.

“If it’s very extreme, they could be cited for careless or reckless driving,” Bennett said, adding that reckless driving is the more intentional of the two.

And even then, such behaviors may be hard to penalize.

“An officer must witness the violation to issue a citation to a person, and we can’t be everywhere,” she said.

If a driver feels threatened, he or she may dial 911 or later make a formal complaint with a police department in the incident’s jurisdiction, Bennett said.

In the case of a person who is confronted by an aggressive driver, Bennett said every attempt should be made to get out of the way.

“Don’t try to get into a contest with them,” she said. “No one is going to win — you may hurt yourself or anyone else.”

Rebecca Palen, a clinical therapist at H3-Hope, Healing & Health LLC in St. Clair Shores, said it is important for drivers to try not to react emotionally right away.

She said people with anger management issues should make sure they are taking care of their own bodies by exercising and eating well. She said unresolved stress is often found in their lives.

“I see a lot of grief,” she said. “If someone is grieving … their tolerance is down, and their mood is not in a good place.”

Palen said she would recommend techniques such as deep breathing to calm down when under stress behind the wheel.

Learn more about H3-Hope, Healing & Health LLC in St. Clair Shores by visiting or by calling (586) 335-2006. Find out more about the Michigan State Police by visiting